Hugo Ludeña likes to think his pictures don’t just seize a moment; in a single frame they capture a feeling, a culture and a community. In one, a young Latino couple dressed for a quinceañera, pauses among the ramshackle surroundings of a trailer park. In another, newlyweds uncork a champagne bottle, their faces contorted as they dodge the fountain of foam.
“My photography focuses on celebration, festivities, families, weddings and places where I can find stories or traditions,” said Ludeña, perhaps best known for his documentation of Latino culture. “Sometimes I ask my subjects their life story. In that moment, they get lost and that’s what I capture – your inside. In that moment, you aren’t posing, you’re feeling.”
Earlier this month, Ludeña and colleague Philip Malkin, Manager of Creative Services at Puget Sound Energy, were appointed to the Bellevue Arts Commission. The additions will not only mean new leaders for the arts in Bellevue, but also an injection of diversity into a city rapidly changing its demographic.
“If the city is changing, the art needs to be incorporated,” said Ludeña.
The commission composed of seven members, oversees citywide projects, manages a related budget and develops long-range plans for art and culture in Bellevue. Projects include the Cultural Compass, public art around the East Link alignment and other neighborhood ventures.
“Bellevue’s art scene is already very strong in a variety of areas from the visual arts to the performing arts,” said Malkin, who counts photography among his creative process. Most recently he’s served as an associate for ArtsFund of King and Pierce County. “I think additional support will occur organically with the development of new live-work environments now being planned.”
He points to the Bel-Red corridor, with pending projects like East Link and the Spring District, and a particular emphasis on cultivating the arts, an initiative he says that will naturally lead to more galleries, affordable housing for artists and other opportunities.
“Art can sometimes be an elite,” Ludeña noted.
Born in Lima, Peru he moved to the U.S. at the age of 18 and has called Factoria home for the last six years.
“That’s exactly what I don’t want for Bellevue. If all the artists in Seattle try to move to Bellevue, it’s like trying to move that tree,” he said, gesturing, “to another city and seeing if it will grow the same. I think there are people in Bellevue [who have been] waiting for the opportunity long enough.” Ludeña, who said he came across photography almost accidentally, has spent a good portion of his career, trying to lower the barrier to entry for other immigrant artists. He mentored youth, teaching photography in the South Park Photo Voice Project and at one point published a Latino Cultural Magazine.
Bellevue might seem like an unlikely place for Ludeña’s subjects, but he says many of the construction done in downtown Bellevue is done by Latino men and Eastside neighborhoods are quickly becoming diversified. Families want a photographer who speaks their language, or see his posting in Latino phonebooks. And while Ludeña’s body of work has since splintered off into other projects and nationalities, each assignment is grounded in celebration – Quinceañeras, weddings and folk events.
“Photography is a way of preserving a culture, whether it be a traditional culture or a modern one, a culture handed down through generations,” reads his website. “I hope my art will leave indelible images upon the viewers’ minds and that my photographs have expressed my feelings of reverence for and dedication to the community.”